By Shaun Brown
Talent alone doesn’t get you to the summit of boxing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell a fighter that he needs many more things including self-belief to assist the hurting tools he has at his disposal.
No self-belief, no success. Is it that simple? Perhaps not. Taking in the confidence that those around you have in your abilities can take a while to sink in. Just ask John Ryder. The penny has been in the air for a while now but it’s finally dropped for the 26-year-old middleweight.
His performance, in defeat, to Billy Joe Saunders last September was still seen as one step forward despite losing out on a narrow points loss. A little bit more of the b-word and ‘The Gorilla’ might have been on the cusp of a world title shot right about now. As it stands, 2014 has seen his win record topped up by three but by his own admission it’s been stop-start. Now a top 15 ranking with the WBO is within reach and the positivity shown by his team is finally starting to be heard.
“In the past I’ve not believed in my own ability and myself but other people have. If I’m not a believer then it’s not going to work” Ryder (18-1, 10 KOs) told InstantBoxing.com when we caught up with him earlier this week.
“Now I’ve started believing in myself. (Promoter) Eddie [Hearn] and (trainer) Tony [Sims] have had the belief in me but I’ve been on a different page to them. Now I believe, they believe and I think we’re all on the same page to where we want to be heading. That gives me a lot of confidence that we’re on the same page and thinking the same things. We all have the same goals.”
I asked Ryder about his lack of belief and why it existed.
“I’ve never been the kind of person that will hype myself over Twitter or shout about it. Some people that do that probably don’t believe how good they are but they do it anyway. I’m not gonna be like that but I know mentally now. I spar with good people, I’ve been in with [Billy Joe] Saunders and like him or hate him he’s a good fighter. He’s proven himself at European level. I think that’s the level I can say I’m at. And who knows where he goes from there. It’s all about levels. I know what level I’m at and I know I need to keep performing well and these titles will come.”
And Ryder’s first professional title could be around his waist come Saturday night when the Londoner fights Theophilus Tetteh (16-6-2, 9 KOs) for the vacant WBA Inter-Continental middleweight title at London’s O2 Arena. The Ghanaian who hails from Accra, no stranger to producing some of the finest boxers to emerge from Africa, stepped in as a late replacement for Sergey Khomitsky.
When the Ukranian had been initially announced as Ryder’s opponent many fans were delighted with the matchmaking and saw it as an ideal step in the right direction. However, the 40-year-old withdrew from the contest after it was revealed that promoter, Frank Warren, still had options on the fighter after his one-sided win over his prospect Frank Buglioni earlier this year. Ryder told IB he was never confident that the fight would actually happen.
“To be honest, I know it sounds negative, but I’d come to a point where I half expected it,” he said when asked about Khomitsky dropping out.
“You always hear about people pulling out at the last minute and with the politics in boxing and all that. If it’s not one thing it’s another and politics got involved this time. I think it becomes second nature now. But it’s no good winding yourself up about it anymore. I was confident that Eddie would get someone and it’s still for a title. To be honest I said to Eddie ‘I’d fight my Nan for a title’. But it turns out she’s busy that night (laughs)! I just want belts around my waist. If it’s not one person it’s another person. As long as I’ve got an opponent at the end of the day that’s all that matters.”
A win over Tetteh on Sat night will give Ryder a foundation that could be built on furthermore if, as he hopes, he returns to action before the end of the year to defend his newly acquired strap. 2014 would end with five fights and an up and down year thanks to wins, a title, hand injuries and opponents pulling out.
“If I fight before Christmas then I can look back and say ‘Yeah it’s been a good year’. I’d have had three good fights. A good fight with Jez Wilson, a good 12 rounder this week and then back out making my first defence in December would be great,” said Ryder.
Then would begin a full-on assault against all things middleweight in 2015. The British title was once the dream for Ryder. “Beautiful” is how he described the Lonsdale belt but the reality is he cannot wait forever to fight for that title.
“If the opportunity comes along then maybe I would like to fight for it. I’m in a position now that I’m not going to hang around for it. Saunders has got it. I don’t know if he’s defending it next time. I don’t want to be boxing in six or eight rounders. It’s got to the point now where we need to box for something different to keep progressing.”
And if that something different happens to be a short notice world title shot then Ryder, with a tone of ‘raring to go’ in his voice, would be ready.
“Ultimately that’s what we’re in the sport for, a world title. To get in the top 15 with the WBO would be great. I know it’s a long shot but people have got world title opportunities through voluntaries. If a late notice chance comes up, I’m in shape and if its a world title opportunity then I’m going to jump at it.”
You can follow Shaun Brown on Twitter @shaun_brown
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